Late to this one (hey, what am I NOT late to this time of year?
I have not read all the replies(no time!) but just to comment on the initial post;
I find it very hard to buy that nursing, even nightnursing, causes dental problems. My rationale is 3 fold:
1. extended bf and co-sleeping are the overwhelmingly prefered/historically common activities among humans(our industrialized societies being the notable exceptions). My logic tells me that something which is natural, meaning which has evolved/been designed as normal, is inherently harmful. Were human children intended.evolved to suffer from extensive dental damage by doing what comes naturally/is otherwise vital to their survival? I call this my "common sense test" for any "new" or commonly accepted doctrine; does it make sense if it goes against our natural inclinations/habits/history/evolution(as far as can be discovered)? Or is it something so out of touch with those factors as to be ridiculous. (Hint; this idea fails with flying colors, lol!)
2. Both my children were bf and co-slept(always falling asleep while nursing) past 2 yrs(my son till well past 3, my dd is already past 2). neither of them has ever had cavities as a result(my son had his first and so far only cavity at 7, a tiny one in a rear("6 yr") molar, and imo, it resulted from poor brushing/eating habits he picked up from a cousin
DD's teeth are perfectly sound. This despite no flouride use in our family (in water, paste, rinses, treatments, etc. At most, tiny quantities in bottled juices and canned foods now and then, AND very little dental care; ds's first visit was at 7, to repair the cavity I diagnosed; dd has not yet gone). AND both DH and I had TONS of cavities as kids/teens, despite tons of flouride/dental care. So how can it be genetic?
3. I wonder if many dentists don't extrapolate what they know/suspect re formula to breastmilk. The 2 are not the same. Formula is VERY high in refined sugars, (second ingredient in most cases; up to 50% corn syrup/sugar) whereas breastmilk has none, only whole milk sugars. One is cow milk/soy; the other human milk; very different composition all the way around.
Further, the position of the nipple and the results of nursing to sleep differ widely between the 2; in bf, the child must exert suction to extract milk, in ff, much less effort is required to draw out the milk. Hense, you tend to get pooling(the culprit by all accounts, alomg with sugar on the teeth, which I have already mentioned) with formula/to bed with a bottle, not with bf. When a bf child falls asleep/stops sucking, the flow of milk stops as well; not so with bottles, as a rule.
The nipple positioning also differs dramatically; bottles washing the front teeth in milk(due to the less suction required/shape and composition of the nipple) while bf channels the milk down the throat, instead.
Finally, breastmilk is proven to contain anti-microbal properties which inhibit the growth of/kill microorganisms(such as those which "cause" tooth decay). If anything, it would tend to be protective.
Sorry you are getting the big guilt trip from this dentist; I agree, get another opinion/another dentist. And avoid traumatic prcedures as far as possible until the child is older. Unless the decay is so severe that the permanent teeth are at risk, why bother with radical eforts? They will just be falling out in a few yrs, ya know? If they are not going to get worse enough to affect the adult teeth, it is a waste, imo. (I knew a woman who took her 4 yr old in and they found 15 cavities, none of them visible to the naked eye, mind you
This woman had them all filled, despite the fact that her dd was already loosing those very teeth!)
Anyway, JMO. Best wishes, and DON'T blame yourself! Chances are your child's decay would be worse had you not bf so long!
Kim, mom to Forest, 9 and Lily, 2